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Commuting and advancing among Employee Town Hall concerns

Movement was the overarching theme of the Employee Town Hall, hosted by the Employee Council on April 24.

From the "Moving Emory Forward" presentation by President James Wagner to questions about commuting to ones about advancing at work, the question and answer event was an opportunity to ask about University-wide issues.

Watch a video of the Employee Town Hall.

Panelists included Wagner, Provost Earl Lewis, Executive Vice President for Health Affairs S. Wright Caughman and Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Mike Mandl.

Wagner listed a number of "things to be proud of" and the challenges Emory is facing in the post-recession world, urging the audience to always remember the mission: "For-purpose, not for-profit."

The question-and-answer portion — the heart of the annual event — focused on University-wide issues including transportation and professional development. A Council representative presented "hot topic" questions that had been submitted through the Employee Council website.

The following were high-interest topics this year:

Transportation and parking

"A Transportation and Parking Services (TPS) committee is now reviewing how much it costs to provide transportation, how to help the commute," said Employee Council president Jessica Perlove. The committee is also looking at where the park-and-ride shuttles should be best located.

She noted that employees are now being asked to park with the car tag facing outward to facilitate the new parking enforcement system.

Another question raised was whether Emory will remain committed to subsidizing MARTA passes with the upcoming vote to bring more MARTA access to the Clifton Corridor.    

"There will be no impact on the MARTA subsidy program," Mandl said. Independent of the regional transportation referendum, the TPS committee is looking at all the ways that Emory subsidizes transportation  — the MARTA program, park-and-rides, carpooling and others, "taking the total amount that Emory subsidizes and saying ‘what is best way that money should be deployed to help the most people?' Whether those conclusions will affect MARTA subsidy, I don't know that," he said.

Professional development

"Professional development was a huge issue this year," Perlove said. "We have a lot of employees who find it challenging to take advantage of the opportunities for various reasons."

Mandl said that since the 2005 launch of the University's strategic plan, one of the emphases was professional development.

"HR created [several] programs to help develop employees," he said, acknowledging "there's a lot more that needs to be done, in part because higher education is so decentralized and there aren't obvious career paths."

Several questions concerned opportunities for employees to advance in their career.

"There are already under way certain programs in place for advancement," said Lewis.  He mentioned a number of options, from taking courses through HR or Emory Continuing Education. "The larger challenge," he said, is mapping clear pathways for advancement in all job families.

Mandl thinks a key step is to give employees an understanding of what the opportunities are across the entire University and how those play out in terms of advancement. "So if you see a position you want, then 'what do I need to do to prepare for it?' We've done that in a pilot form; I think we can do that that across all or many jobs," he said.

In response to a comment about the need for mandatory supervisory training for supervisors, Mandl acknowledged that was one of the "biggest issue for our employees," and the "biggest source of uneven experience for our employees."

Talk turned to the need for more opportunities for hourly employees to do professional development training.

"Salaried employees are encouraged to pursue a line of development that hourly are not," Perlove said, adding that the Employee Council is working on the issue.

Lewis said the Committee on Class and Labor is  "looking at this issue as well, floating several ideas" to accommodate this.

Other topics addressed included a revision of the personnel performance review standards. 

Tobacco-free Emory

Earlier this year, Emory implemented a tobacco-free policy prohibiting the use of all tobacco products on University and Emory Healthcare properties.

Responding to a question about enforcing the policy, Wagner said, "Enforcement is almost a word that doesn't fit with what we are doing. We don't really have smoking cops. We have tried to use mostly moral persuasion."

"My sense is we are being successful in establishing a non-smoking culture," he added. "We think that's the right way to move forward on this as opposed to a more authoritarian approach."

Addressing a question specifically about hospital patients and visitors who smoke, Caughman said, "It's a very delicate situation. It is a very difficult addiction to break. For patients who are under stress with severe disease, anxiety relief is a big factor.

"We have a very concerted effort within health care to reduce the frequency of that, to monitor it, to offer alternatives including smoke cessation aids. Every patient that's admitted into hospital is asked about their smoking and they are encouraged and offered before discharge smoking cessation programs," he said.

Work-life issues

 "Time seems to be mentioned on everybody's survey," said Perlove, adding that stress management is also a big issue.

Asked if there was a set of guidelines around telecommuting, Mandl said,

"It's a great suggestion and it actually exists" within the WorkLife Resource Center. He referred to a "toolkit" for managers to use when setting up various alternative work schedules, including telecommuting.

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